chapter  2
18 Pages

The Decision-making Legacy

Whatever the Windscale inquiry’s shortcomings, it remains a landmark in the political history of British nuclear power. As Williams has observed, even if the inquiry fell short of creating really new awareness, new standards were set for public accountability.1 Whether the 1982 government will live up to those standards is another matter: the point is that they now exist. If it is true that ‘nothing improves the quality of decision-making as much as having to make a public finding of facts and a statement of reasons’,2 then at least Parker’s Report (and the government decision) exposed itself to public criticism, even if this was too late to influence the decision. Even this modest accountability could not have been claimed for the original March 1976 decision in favour of the Windscale expansion (usurped, in theory, by the later decision to hold the public inquiry).3